So in Seattle many people say, why can't we be like Portland when it comes to public transportation? The answer is that Seattle failed to plan for its size and Portland, well, they planned for something. I'm not sure if it was growth, but they sure did build a grid covered in trains.
I never thought about it before but the one thing the Portland train grid is, is redundant. At least in the downtown coorridor. Which makes sense because all trains must go there to transfer to the various reaches of the other neighborhoods but when you are just looking at it trying to get from point A to B a couple times you realize, well, there are a lot of trains in downtown Portand between the Max and the streetcar. But enough of that musing for now. First, some pictures of brunch at Broder Nord, where we went directly by foot and train from the door of our Airbnb.
Broder Nord is one of my favorite restaurants in Portland even though I have only been there for breakfast. I always get the Lost Eggs and then try to convince whomever I am with to get the Swedish Pancakes. I succeeded this time.
Jeremy took the bait and went for the full order. Dan, a poster child of Scandinavian upbringing (his mother makes Lefse from scratch) took one look at them and said "I've never seen pancakes like that before." So we all got to try the fluffy goodness that are these medium sized balls of pure gluteny joy covered in powdered sugar. They danced on the tongue like a choir of angels, and were even better with the house lemon curd (not pictured).
Stuffed full of Nordic stomach wonderment we journeyed into downtown Portland on the Max. On the list of things to see was Chinatown and the Chinese Gardens – which in my memory used to be free, but they weren't anymore so we just took some pictures of a Chinatown that is looking a little worse for wear.
We wandered down to the waterfront past a few blocks of city that smelled like urine and bad life choices, noting the prevalence of ad hoc homeless encampments along the sidewalk and other less than stereotypical encampment locations.
In the park along the waterfront we found geese, and packs of humans gathered together in their own filth, littering on the lawn in squawking smelly piles. If you stayed immediately along the water, you could mostly avoid the smell.
I thought we might go to the Maritime museum to even out what we learned in Astoria, but I got out voted for the submarine tour associated with Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. So off to the Max stop we went again to take a slow moving train to South East Portland.
Here I am being captured digging through my purse for my ticket to the submarine SS Blueback (I think) it was Blue something but I didn't take notes or a photo of the description. I was curious to go on a submarine but not super motivated to care that much about the details. We all had to climb through the doorway before we could take to the tour to prove we could do it on the ship – and there were about five doors that looked just like it down below.
The downside of the submarine tour was that it was a guided tour. We had to go where guided. I get it, its a submarine, there are a lot of bells whistles and buttons one can push if left on their own. Which would not be good as the majority of the population cannot be trusted to flush the correct things down the toilet.
On our tour we went from tiny room to tiny room spending a lot of time waiting for our tour guide to the shoot the shit with this that or the other military veteran and share stories about family, the midwest, or other whatnot. I would have enjoyed better a fountain of facts like most every other guided tour I've been on. On top of the lack of structure to the tour, the submarine smelled like an industrial boiler, and diesel fuel, and/or something else deeply ingrained in every part of it. When someone asked, this is where we learned that submarines are called "pig boats" because of the lack of cleanliness and the combination of smells that marinate without the ability to "air out the boat" while out at sea.
We finally emerged from the submarine tour and had passes to the main science museum. I thought it might be a bit "kid-centric" and I was right, but there were still a few things for us adults to have fun with.
Like the physics room where you can touch this silver ball and your hair stands on end, among other things.
Or the ultraviolet light thingy that makes you into a glowing color rainbow.
And funny looking gecko like things named Lancelot. When we had entertained ourselves above and beyond what was possible in the quite large and diverse science museum we headed for Powell's World of Books. A Portland must see as far as I am concerned. I didn't take any pictures while I was there, but all of us got lost and found ourselves again. I left with a used copy of an Anthony Bourdain book called The Nasty Bits, and called myself lucky.
We got a snack at a brewery nearby to tide ourselves over then headed across town again on the Max to Jacqueline for Oyster Happy Hour.
Apparently, Jacqueline is one of the hottest Oyster Happy Hours in town as a line formed behind us about two minutes after we arrived super early at 4:38pm. Jacqueline's doesn't open until 5pm, and we were early on accident, because that is what we do (arrive 30 minutes early for our reservations or anything else).
It is a beautiful place, with beautiful food. Behind us in the photo above is the oyster shucker we made friends with. He is originally from New Jersey and has a tattoo of a ramp on his arm. I told him it was cool (the ramp tattoo), and he gave us 4 Disco Hama oysters instead of more of the ones the restaurant was giving away for a $1 each. Total win.
I also convinced us to order the crab toast – it just called to me.
And especially because we were not going to have anything else rich for dinner later that night. Oh wait there were only eleven courses at Han Oak waiting for us at 9pm. But first another hour long train ride back to our Airbnb.
We watched this guy talk on his phone the entire time. He got off at our stop, so it really was the entire time.
This is the front of our Airbnb host's house. It is really cute. They have a tiny volunteer cherry tomato growing immediately in front of it.
We chilled out for a little bit, pondered the homeless problem in Portland, then got cleaned up and called a Lyft to drive us to Han Oak around 8:30pm – we still got to our late evening reservation early. As we entered through the unmarked doorway we were greeted by the proprietor's wife and child and a scooter blocking the way into the greater restaurant.
So Han Oak is not your normal restaurant. It is pretty much the living room and kitchen of the chef and his family – we just happen to be paying customers. It is pretty fun and you have to be looking for it – and as our waiter explained, the chef can still work 80 hour weeks and see his family.
The meal started with kimchi, all the different types of kimchi plus roasted corn.
Then two kinds of meat wrappy things (beef and lettuce) and (pork and rice noodle).
Then there was the fried course – chicken and a specialty waffle – separate courses with very distinct flavors (not some asian fusion take on southern chicken and waffle).
Then there were the dumplings. They were all the pork all the ways. I was so full by this point that I was just taking a bite and handing the rest to Jeremy and Dan.
The next to the last course was noodles in a spicy cold broth. It was so good but again I couldn't finish it – just so much food. Buckwheat noodles slathered in kimchi broth so simple but so tasty.
Finally this cream-a-rific dessert arrived. I ate the bit of burnt sugar off the top and let the guys have it all. They loved it and it really was fruit forward.
Nearing 11pm we left the restaurant and were picked up by our Lyft driver who just happened to have Jell-O shots. He offered them to us and we politely declined. It was very strange to be offered Jell-O shots by a driver, and even if we were interested it was just too much to put on top of our huge meal. Oh, Portland – so funny, you can be. We were spent for the day and immediately crashed at the Airbnb ready to get up in time to get a second Portland brunch in before exploring the Columbia River Gorge on Saturday.